WASHINGTON: The White House on Saturday (February 13) called on China to provide data from the earliest days of the COVID-19 outbreak, saying it has “deep concern” about the way the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 report is finding. communicated.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement that the report should be independent and free from “changes by the Chinese government”, echoing concerns raised by the administration of former President Donald Trump, who also moved to quit the WHO on the issue.
A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy responded with a stern statement, saying the United States had undermined multilateral cooperation and WHO in recent years, and should not “point the finger” at China and other countries that supported WHO during the COVID-19 pandemic.
China welcomes the US decision to re-engage with the WHO, but Washington should stick to “the highest standards” rather than targeting other countries, the spokesman said.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday said all hypotheses were still open about the origins of COVID-19, after Washington said it wanted to review data from a WHO-led mission to China, where the virus first emerged.
A WHO-led mission, which spent four weeks in China investigating the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak, said this week it was looking no further into the question of whether the virus escaped the laboratory, which it considered highly unlikely.
The Trump administration has said it suspects the virus may have escaped from a Chinese laboratory, which Beijing strongly denies.
Sullivan noted that US President Joe Biden was quick to drop his decision to leave WHO, but said it was imperative to protect the organization’s credibility.
“Re-engaging WHO also means maintaining the highest standards,” said Sullivan. “We have deep concerns about the way the initial findings of the COVID-19 investigation were communicated and questions about the process used to reach them.”
Biden, who spent his first weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in the mountains of western Maryland, will meet with his national security adviser on Saturday, a White House official said.
China refused to provide raw data on the initial cases of COVID-19 to a WHO-led team investigating the origins of the pandemic, according to one of the team’s investigators, potentially complicating efforts to understand how the outbreak started.
The team had requested raw patient data on 174 cases China had identified from the initial phase of the outbreak in the city of Wuhan in December 2019, as well as other cases, but were only given a summary, Dominic Dwyer, an Australian contender. a disease expert who is a member of the WHO team, told Reuters.
“This report must be independent, with expert findings that are free from intervention or change by the Chinese government,” said Sullivan.
“To better understand this pandemic and prepare for the next pandemic, China must provide its data from the earliest days of the outbreak,” he said.
No immediate comment was available from the Chinese embassy in Washington or the WHO.
Going forward, all countries, including China, must participate in a transparent and robust process to prevent and respond to health emergencies, said Sullivan.
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